Recruitment | Executive Search

Employer branding, a solution for the IT skills shortage in South Africa

South Africa has a major shortage of skilled workers in many industries: most affected are the mining sector, the medical sector, and the Information Technology (IT) industry.

The shortage is due to the incompatibility of the skills provided and the skills required by the job market. This phenomenon of South Africa’s most skilled workers leaving the country is also known as the ‘brain drain’. The shortage of skills is mainly due to the loss of skilled professionals to other countries that offer higher salaries and better benefits.

Another, specifically South African reason, is IT companies getting rid of skilled employees for employment equity reasons, thus creating a skills shortage which subsequently leads to outsourcing, inflated salaries, and recruitment from abroad. This is concerning as South Africa finds itself competing with developed countries for highly sought-after candidates in industries that need to stay competitive for the sake of the growth of the country.

The changes and growth in the industry is increasing, and the skills base is not keeping up. This problem isn’t going to be solved in the near future as the low maths and science pass rate among matriculants will further limit the pool of candidates available in the future. UNISA, University of South Africa, also has a shortage of postgraduate students specialising in IT.

Recruitment agencies have found that the right skills at the right price are difficult to find. Having to choose from a limited pool of candidates that aren’t always the best skilled also has a negative impact on the company’s productivity. This is good news for IT professionals, but bad news for employers.

Some IT specialised skills are so scarce and in such high demand that the price for these talents is very high, which spills over into functioning costs. South Africa’s shortage of the right IT skilled people at the right place and price has forced companies to either import skills, or outsource functions in order to have sufficient IT skills in their teams.

Seeing that South Africa is competing with the world for IT professionals, South African companies need to wake up and find new ways to attract and retain local talent by being an ‘employer of choice’. The question now posed to prospective employers, not only in the IT industry, but also in the digital marketing, health, and mining industries, is how can local companies attract and retain talent, ultimately positioning themselves as employers of choice?

The answer might be employer branding. The concept of employer branding or establishing an emotional connection between the company and its employees is fairly new to South Africa. Marketing a business brand to customers is one thing; marketing it to potential employees as an exciting place to work is a task on its own. This trend has taken off overseas as a way to attract, retain, and develop staff.

Employer branding strategy – what can be done to attract, develop and retain staff?

  • Competitive salaries
  • Allowing for work-life balance: sought-after holiday and vacation benefits
  • Training and education reimbursements
  • Involvement in employer of the year industry awards
  • Launching incentive schemes to reward performance of individual employees or teams
  • Incentivising employees to become brand ambassadors for the business
  • Companies could utilise the digital landscape to promote their branding to attract employees in IT and digital marketing. They could perhaps use blogging, post creative audio podcasts or videos of employees, and build a social media platform through applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Companies’ bottomline will undoubtedly be affected by their realising that good employees aren’t replaceable, and their subsequent drawing up of a differentiating employer branding strategy. Skilled and productive IT professionals, marketing experts, management staff and engineers provide a strong platform for the success of any company. To attract these individuals, it is crucial that companies start addressing their presentation, reputation and, ultimately, their brand.

Initiate International is well known for providing job and career opportunities for IT professionals in South Africa. In addition, our specialist recruitment teams provide sought after candiates with job opportunities in digital marketing & communications, finance and foreign languages. Should you be looking for your next career move in IT or any of the other sectors, please feel free to get in touch.